RAIN Group Sales Blog

Your source for sales advice, tips, research, and insights to unleash sales potential.

I recently conducted a webinar for a client on sales prospecting. Leading up to the webinar, I asked what questions the client had about prospecting so I could tailor the content to their particular challenges. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when I only got one response. And that’s not because they are masters of prospecting—quite the contrary. It's because they do so little of it and were unsure of what questions to ask.

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TL;DR? Download the PDF and save it for later. Many sellers assume buyers don't want or need to talk to them early in the buying process.  This simply isn't the case. In fact, our prospecting research reveals buyers want to hear from sellers early.  When Do Buyers Want to Hear from Sellers in the Buying Process?

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As a seller, you’re trying to build relationships with potential buyers. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. The more you get to know your buyers, and let them get to know you, the easier it is to sell to them. But first, you have to break through the noise, capture their attention, and create conversations with them. This is easier said than done. To do this, you need to engage in what we call an Attraction Campaign. An Attraction Campaign is a coordinated series of messages with strong value-based offers deployed across multiple channels that'll get you on your buyer’s radar and make that buyer more likely to want to start a conversation.

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A lot goes into successful prospecting: targeting, offers, outreach, personalization, research, follow up, and more. At the RAIN Group, we’ve found the most effective way to prospect is using the WAVE method: Having a Winner’s mindset Deploying a strong Attraction Campaign Offering great Value Execution

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To succeed in sales, you need a steady stream of new opportunities entering the pipeline, whether it's with new clients or existing accounts. That's not as easy as it used to be, given that people are now working, buying, and selling virtually, and many organic opportunities to create sales opportunities have disappeared.

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Prospecting is a challenge for even the most experienced sellers, and with the shift to working, buying, and selling virtually, organic opportunities to make new connections and create conversations have disappeared. There aren't any in-person networking events, tradeshows, travel, or opportunities to grab dinner, a cup of coffee, or attend a sporting event together.

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How many times have you received a prospecting email or phone call and said, "Sure, let's meet right away?" If you're like most of us, it probably doesn't happen very often. If you're on the other side and the one sending emails or making calls, what's your success rate? Probably pretty dismal. Congratulations! You're like most of the people we surveyed.

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Value is at the center of all sales activities, including prospecting. Often, discussions with our clients about buyers value focus on the reasons that buyers ultimately buy from you, using the 4 Whys: Why act? Why now? Why us? Why trust?

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There are few areas of selling filled with more uncertainty, challenges, and conflicting advice than prospecting. Success in sales prospecting requires breaking through the noise to capture buyers' attention and influence them to meet with you. Which begs a few questions: What does capture buyers’ attention? Do buyers want to hear from sellers, and if so, when? How should sellers reach out and connect with buyers?

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This RAIN Group article was first published on Selling Power. When it comes to sales prospecting, sellers are frequently told the following: "Cold calling doesn't work." "It's impossible to get through to buyers cold." "With all the information on the Internet, buyers do their own research and reach out later in the sales process." "You shouldn't pitch your capabilities." But rarely do sellers stop and think, "Is any of this true?" According to 488 buyers (who get prospected to all the time) and 489 sellers who outbound prospect, these generally accepted-to-be-true statements are, in fact, false. They're sales prospecting myths that too many sellers follow, and it's hurting their results. Here are the facts when it comes to sales prospecting:

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This article was originally published on the Sales Enablement Society. Sellers often complain that it's impossible to get through to buyers. Gatekeepers are tough. Buyers are busy. Calls go to voicemail. Email goes to junk. The list goes on. While getting through certainly isn't easy, sellers who work at it do get through. In fact, 82% of buyers say they accept meetings at least sometimes with sellers who reach out to them.

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This piece originally appeared in the August 2018 edition of Independent Agent magazine and is reprinted here with permission. Word of mouth, repeat business and referrals used to be enough to maintain a thriving sales organization. But today, buyers have more options than ever before, they're more educated, and the phone doesn't ring like it used to. That means sellers need to be proactive in growing their pipelines and securing meetings with buyers. Here are five ways to get started:

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Technology sellers lament how impossible it is to get their buyers on the phone more than any other industry. Phone is one of the top ways sellers say they connect with buyers, yet sellers in the technology industry report extreme difficulty using it to reach their buyers. In our study on Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, we studied 488 buyers responsible for $4.2 billion of purchases and the prospecting habits of 489 sellers. We looked at results across buyer and seller sets, top performers, and industry. As part of our research, we compared how buyers prefer to be contact by sellers across multiple industries.

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Sales prospecting has changed more than any other facet of sales in the last 10 years. There are a lot of clickbait articles with radical advice popping up and leading sellers astray. In our new benchmark report, Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, we undertook a study of 488 B2B buyers and 489 sellers to find out what's working and what's not in sales prospecting. In this infographic, we contrast 5 popular assumptions about prospecting with facts from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research.

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How many attempts does it take to break through to busy buyers? What offers are most accepted? Do cold meetings convert to new business? In our new benchmark report, Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research uncovered the answers to these critical prospecting questions. With data from 488 B2B buyers and 489 sellers, we've cracked the code on what works in prospecting today. This infographic highlights 30 must-know stats from our research and analysis and what they mean for sellers in today's world.

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Challenges abound when it comes to sales prospecting. From targeting and using the right outreach methods to maintaining motivation and energy, there are plenty of ways to outbound prospect and fail. Download: 5 Sales Prospecting Myths Debunked For our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, we asked 489 sellers who outbound prospect about the biggest prospecting issues they face. The top 10 prospecting challenges can be grouped into 4 categories:

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Put me in front of 10 buyers and I'll close 7 of them. All I need is more meetings. I hear this from sellers all the time. Get me more "at bats" and I'll get the hits. To succeed in sales, you need a consistent stream of new leads to fill the front end of the pipeline. You can't, however, just sit back and wait for the phone to ring or email to ding. You need to be proactive in filling your own pipeline if you're going to succeed with prospecting.

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How many touches does it take to make a sale? The simple answer is: more than most people think! According to our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, it takes an average of 8 touches to get an initial meeting (or other conversion) with a new prospect. But the initial meeting is just the beginning. It takes a lot more to make the sale.

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There are 2 stats that are cited in sales articles all the time: 57% of the purchase decision is made before a customer calls a supplier 67% of the buying journey is now done digitally The question, however, is so what? Sellers and sales leaders often interpret this to mean that buyers don't want to hear from sellers. This is far from the truth.

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Buyers are awash with information, bombarded with sales and marketing messages, crazy busy, and tasked to do more with less. Yet they still want to hear from sellers and they still accept meetings with sellers who reach out to them proactively. 82% of buyers will accept meetings with sellers who reach out. The sellers who secure these meetings achieve significantly greater success with a much different approach.

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Cold calling—what an appropriate name for calls to prospects unfamiliar with you. More often than not, the people you call are so chilly toward you that you feel like you should put on a parka. Previous bad experiences with sellers cause them to immediately erect a wall of ice when they receive such a call. Fortunately there are ways to warm prospects up, get them to talk with you about their concerns, and get them interested in hearing what you have to say. You must, however, do it within the first few seconds of the conversation.

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Brrrr... I've just been cold calling and boy could I use some hot chicken soup! Just those two words together—cold calling—puts many people far away from warm and happy. Given that it's so much fun for so many people, and that I have heard a number of times recently that the last nail has been banged into the cold calling coffin, why is cold calling still even on our radar screens?   Because it works.

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We all love repeat business, referrals, and inbound warm leads. The problem is you can’t scale warm leads. When these run out, so does your ability to grow your revenue, unless, of course, you prospect and drive new leads in the pipeline yourself.

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Many people want to believe that cold calling doesn't work because they don't want to have to do cold calling. Indeed, there are many ways to do it wrong and fail. There are many cold callers out there using deceptive tactics to get through, which leaves a bad taste in buyers' mouths.

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Email prospecting is a hot topic these days—and it should be because it works. Or at least, it works when it's done right. In 5 Sales Prospecting Myths Debunked, we found that email is the #1 way buyers prefer to be contacted by sellers.

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Breaking into new accounts and setting meetings is one of the most difficult tasks sellers face. But if you want to be successful in sales, you need to be able to build your own pipeline and drum up your own business. You need to be able to prospect for new business with great success.

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In our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we found that the number one factor separating sales winners from second-place finishers is this: Sellers educated buyers with new ideas or perspectives. In other words, the seller became known as a source of insight.

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What is the #1 challenge or issue you face when it comes to growing sales for your business? When I recently reached out to my network and asked that same question, 75% mentioned sales prospecting as their #1 challenge. The problem isn’t that people don’t know what to do; it’s that what they’ve always done no longer works. Want proof? Think about the last time you met an actual decision maker at a networking event, and that conversation led to a sale. How about from a cold call? Trade show? Advertisement? The simple truth is this: if you do what everybody else is doing, you’ll get the same results everybody else is getting.

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Cold prospecting – reaching out to targets you don’t know to generate an initial meeting – is one of the hardest parts of sales. Partly, it’s a numbers game. With decision makers more insulated than ever, it’s getting harder and harder to get past gatekeepers and beyond voicemail. But what happens when you do get a cold prospect to pay attention – whether it’s because they picked up the phone, or responded to an email or a direct mail piece? Do you feel like you nail it every time? Much prospecting success is determined in this first interaction. Many opportunities die here before you have a chance to engage.

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It's 2001. You work for a new company in the search engine space. Let's call this company Shmoogle. Shmoogle has this huge new idea—businesses are starting to grow based on getting found on the Internet. Why not have businesses pay per click to get found? Brilliant! You're a sales person at Shmoogle, and you know pay per click will be huge. You start prospecting on the phone.

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